Ingram Blog

Best Metadata Practices

Jennifer McCord and Aubrey White

What is Metadata?

“Metadata” is the data that provides information about other data. By “other data,” we mean the information about the book and author. Not exactly the most helpful definition in the world, but that doesn’t change the fact that metadata—knowing your book’s metadata—is essential to finding a publisher or finding your readers and marketing your work.

What does this mean for books? Creating good metadata provides information that will help publishers, bookstores, libraries and book wholesalers with selling and finding your book. Metadata has become an essential part of the publishing process. This data includes the title, author name, ISBN, size of the book, and page count, but it can—and does—go much deeper. In this digital age, the difference between your book showing on page seventeen of a search result or page one is all in the metadata.

Metadata Explained for Authors and Agents

For authors and agents, metadata is the information that is essential for sharing the book with readers, libraries, and bookstores. It is used to categorize the book online and, in the bookstore, and includes the description of the book, author information, and the book’s notable characteristics. As an author or agent, if you know the book’s relevance to the current market such as other titles it is similar to or competes to in a new and unusual way, that information can be part of your submission strategy. If you know where your book belongs on a bookstore shelf, you can submit to publishers who excel at that kind of book. Knowing what makes the book unique allows it to stand out.

Metadata can include keywords that match with your book to be used in Search Engine Optimization. Finally, the author biography should include the full name, website, and a list of some of the author’s other titles. If a reader searches for one of the author’s titles, they will be able to the others.

Submissions as a Basis for Starting Metadata

Submission guidelines are the foundation for creating metadata. The process can start when an author or agent submits a manuscript to a publisher. Guidelines can be written for that purpose. This information also helps publishers make decisions on where the book fits into the publishing list and sales potential. Here are some factors to consider in submission guidelines:

  • Author Biography: The author biography includes information that would pertain as to why the author has the professional expertise to write about the subject. For fiction writers, if you are writing a story with a specific theme, setting, or plot that pertains to your area of expertise, include that in the bio.
  • Promotional Plan: The promotional plan for your book includes all relevant information. Does the author have a website? Do they have contacts for blurbs and alumni and professional organizations?
  • Competitive titles: Writers who are writing in the same category, or that have similar styles of writing. For non-fiction, titles that are written about the same subject matter.
  • Category: For fiction, include what genre and what sub-genre within the category, for instance, romance western historical, mystery-cozy mystery etc.
  • Purpose: For non-fiction, a mission statement for the overall concept of the work

All this information provides the publisher with a way to build the metadata for the title.

Elements of Good Metadata

Good metadata is developed when a book is contracted with the author/agent.

At Epicenter-Coffeetown-Camel Press we have come up with a book fact sheet that we request all authors fill out after they have received their editorial revisions. It includes the following:

  • One or two sentence pitch about the book
  • Compelling teaser
    • For fiction: a short synopsis of 300-500 words that focuses on the conflict and resolution
    • For non-fiction: a short synopsis about the subject matter or memoir as to why this book now and motivation for writing the story
  • Cover description: 50-200 words
  • 10-15 key words about the story, and if it is a series some keywords about the series
  • Visual elements, places, or objects that have significance to the story
  • Author quote about the book
  • Past reviews and blurbs
  • Short bio and website
  • Author hometown or region that the author resides in
    • The author’s hometown may not be mentioned for privacy reasons, but the metadata can include the region so that local area bookstores and libraries may consider ordering the book

Why Does this Matter?

Everyone requires good metadata. Developing consistent and relevant information from the beginning saves time and money so that the title can be announced to vendors in the way that they need.

If the author knows where a book should be shelved in a bookstore, the author can better share the book with readers and in presentations for libraries and bookstores. Thoughtful metadata can make the book stand out from the mass of books available on the literal or digital bookshelf, and when the author and publisher know the niche, they can market directly to those readers. Authors should also use that information on their website, blog, and social media pages. The metadata is how people find and relate to the books, so when everyone knows how it works, they can use it to the fullest advantage to develop the author and publisher brand. 

Learn more about Metadate from Ingram Experts below: